I love history. It has always been one of my favorite subjects in school, and it continues to be one of my favorite subjects in college. I plan to major in history, perhaps even teach it someday if God is kind to me. I enjoy reading about the different people and cultures that have lived (and died) on this wondrous world of ours. I love reading about their traditions, religious beliefs, accomplishments, and I believe that even the more unsavory aspects of history serve to teach us lessons about ourselves. It is for this reason that I am perplexed and even saddened by the statements I hear coming from people around me, either in my private life or in the classroom. “History is so boring,” “I don’t see the point of studying this,” “This is so lame,” “Why study history? What benefit is it?” It is because of this attitude that I am blogging about this topic today. So why study history? Here are just a few reasons why you (and everyone) should be armchair historians.
1. Studying history will help you better understand the world.
Whether or not you actually study history, the one thing that most of us do is keep up with the news, via television, newspapers, or the Internet. We often read about how the United States is doing something in the Middle East, or how Russia is invading Georgia (the country not the state), or how violence in Iraq is due to rivalry between groups of Muslims known as Sunni and Shi’ites. A lot of Americans probably do not have the slightest idea what is the big deal between these two denominations of Islam, but if you know your history you will know that there is a very good reason why these two have been rivals for about one-thousand and four-hundred years (give or take a few decades). A person studying history may realize that there are deeper issues for why Russia invaded Georgia, or why there is conflict between the Arabs and Israelis in Israel. Do you know why a lot of these countries resent America? It is probably because we keep interfering in their affairs either covertly or overtly, exerting our influence over these less-developed nations because we think we know better. Once you start researching the past, you start to get a better idea of what is truly going on behind these events in the world.
2. Studying history will help you have a better perspective on life.
“President Obama is the worst president in history!” this is a statement that I hear often in my own circles, while others might hear something like “President Bush was the worst president ever!” I also hear statements like “We’ve never faced a time like we are in now.” I usually shake my head and start talking about the Black Death or the Great Depression. I then see their eyes and I can tell that the wheels are turning, and suddenly this does not seem like such a bad time to live in after all. The study of history will thus challenge our perspectives about life and what we believe. I used to believe in Dispensational theology, specifically its view of the End Times, because it was the view that I grew up with. I thought all Christians believed this, and that some people were crazy for not believing what the Bible “plainly taught.” My views changed when, in addition to actually reading the entire Bible, I started researching about and reading the writings of the early church fathers and reformers. I learned from this study of history that not only was Dispensationalism not the dominant view of Christian history, but that it really only came about during the 1800s, almost 1,800 years after the original Christian movement! This really opened my eyes and made me realize that my worldview was not the correct one, and so I have changed my perspective on the subject of eschatology (the study of last things) as a result of my studies in history.
3. Studying history will teach you lessons about life.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana.
As the above quote shows, the study of history is also important because of the lessons that it teaches us. People often wonder just how Adolf Hitler was able to manipulate an entire nation to commit horrible atrocities against the Jews and other minorities, and how the German people could seem to just happily go along with his policies. For the student of history, however, the reasons become clearer because she has studied the history of Europe, the effects on Germany World War I had, and how these all came together to provide the perfect stage for a man like Hitler to come along and take command. We can also learn lessons about how to run our governments, businesses, and households by looking at both the mistakes and successes of those in the past. Does America want to last for a long time? Take a lesson from empires and nations that have last for a long time and do not repeat the actions that led to their downfall.
In conclusion let me just say that the study of history has much to offer everyone. The benefits of history far outweigh any momentary boredom you may experience while studying your textbook. You will gain knowledge about the world and how it operates, broaden your perspective on life, and learn valuable lessons that will hopefully make you a better person. Studying history also trains the mind to think logically and to make reasoned arguments about the subject that you are studying. It will also help you improve your writing, as there usually tends to be a lot of writing involved in the study of history. I encourage each and every person to try reading about an area of history that they find fascinating, no matter what that is. If you are a sports fan, try reading a book about the history of sports. If you like fashion, try reading a book about the history of fashion. If you are a science geek, try reading a book about the history of science etc. There is always something for everyone in the field of history.